Empowering communities to protect forests in Sierra Leone and Liberia through the power of cocoa and carbon

Greater Gola Landscape, Sierra Leone & Liberia
GRNP (c)David Zeller
Gola, Sierra Leone & Liberia
Empowering communities to protect forests in Sierra Leone and Liberia through the power of cocoa and carbon

Cutting-edge approaches to conservation are protecting forest and improving livelihoods, yet further investment is needed to sustain expansion into Liberia in the long-term.

We’re uniting two countries in solutions that overcome deforestation and support sustainable livelihoods, in order to save a globally important forest and its wildlife.
This flagship landscape demonstrates innovative approaches to achieving landscape-level sustainability, and shows that forest conservation has no boundaries.


One of the last and largest blocks of forest in the Guinean Forest Biome of West Africa, Gola crosses an international border and supports 40,000 people’s livelihoods.

The Greater Gola landscape is one of the last remaining blocks of Guinean forest in West Africa, and contains a celebrated Transboundary Peace Park between Sierra Leone and Liberia. This stunning landscape supports 327 bird and 575 butterfly species, and includes 60 species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List, such as the Western Chimpanzee, Forest Elephant and Pygmy Hippo. Around 40,000 people live around Gola, with 90% of their livelihoods depending on natural resources and subsistence agriculture. The forests are therefore under significant pressure from clearance and degradation, especially for the large iron ore deposits detected in the area. It is critical that conservation approaches enable local people to develop more economically and ecologically sustainable livelihoods.

Gola Cocoa Team
Gola team


An innovative set of strategies, including a highly-successful REDD+ project and a locally-owned, forest-friendly cocoa company, are saving this special forest. 

From the first survey in 1989, a long-running partnership of NGOs, Governments and local communities have been working together, pioneering cutting-edge conservation approaches across Gola’s 370,000 hectares of protected and community-managed forests. This has resulted in the creation of two protected areas and the first accredited REDD+ project for West Africa, which has avoided 5 million tonnes of CO2 emission over 10 years. The project has also engaged 24,000 local people in livelihood and wellbeing programmes.

Locally-tailored approaches include forest protection, sustainable livelihood development, education and awareness-raising, and science and monitoring programmes. All projects have seen high levels of community engagement and participation. World-leading science has underpinned operations throughout. Our research has discovered new species and measured the impact of human activity, enabling us to adapt our management accordingly.

One of Gola’s flagship initiatives is the restoration and improvement of cocoa agroforestry production, working with 2,000 cocoa farmers around the national park in Sierra Leone. This has included establishing a democratically-structured producer organisation which successfully exported 40 metric tonnes of sustainable cocoa in 2018 to premium markets. Our aim is to certify 200 metric tonnes in 2020. In Liberia, work is underway to scale up the initiative across the Greater Gola Landscape.

Gola Chocolate
cocoa coop
Cocoa farmers and gold team
Pygmy hippo on camera trap in the park
White-necked Picathartes
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Scale of opportunity
370,000 hectares
Trees target
Over 25 million trees
Flagship biodiversity
Chimpanzees, pygmy hippos and 327 bird species including the White-necked Picathartes
As the first REDD+ programme in West Africa, we have avoided over 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over 10 years, and are already producing our own rainforest-friendly chocolate bar